Donor geography key predictor of giving: Nonprofit Federation show

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WASHINGTON -- Customizing direct mail efforts by geography was the topic for representatives from Drakes Bay Fundraising, the American Lung Association, Thompson Habib Denison and the American Red Cross who gathered last week at the Direct Marketing Association's annual Nonprofit Federation conference.

The session began with discussions of segmentation philosophy and use of various segmentation formulas.

"We have found that where a donor lives is a major predictor of not only whether they will give, but how much they will give and how often," said Craig Zeltser of Thompson Habib.

Results and research revealed that different geographical regions show similar volume but have very different metrics. Further research showed that this variation runs parallel to the cost of living in different parts of the country.

Research also showed that if a $25 donor is a relatively high-dollar donor in one territory and a relatively low-dollar donor in another territory, then their response rates will differ.

When the American Lung Association added the ability to select by geographical variables to its database, the group's net revenue increased nationally.

"We implemented a hybrid program where a local P.O. box was used for regions and associations with extreme results," said Craig Finstad of the American Lung Association. "However, we are always continuing to test, test, test."

Never make assumptions in the nonprofit sector.

"Don't assume that local is better," Mr. Finstad said. "Consider geography as a primary select criteria and run your analysis by smaller, statistically significant areas, because geographic differences can affect copy, design, gift ask, return address and other aspects of your program."

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